Wine, Valentine’s Day make hearty pair

The romance of wine has been well-documented in story and song. Couples are falling in love and having weddings at vineyards in increasing numbers. Elegant and extraordinary experiences have been the highest priority for the area wineries and restaurants that feature fine wine in their menus, as they plan for Valentine’s Day dinners on Feb. 14.
I have compiled a list of recommendations of places that have wonderful experiences in place for their customers, but first let me introduce you to a Napa Valley Winery whose 33 acres are devoted to the romance of wine.
Bart and Barb O’Brien have owned and operated O’Brien Estate in the Oak Knoll district of Napa Valley since 2000. They have a home on the site. “We have regrafted a great deal of the 33-acre vineyard from Chardonnay to its current 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest divided into Cab Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc,” Bart said. “What followed was a next-level move into a Bordeaux-style blend which we decided to name Seduction, a deep dense purple wine with aromas of sweet black cherry. You taste intense currant and berry flavors on the palate, framed by fine-grained tannins.” 2006 was a lovely year for this concentrated blend, and now the 2007 Seduction comes in a gift box that celebrates your someone special.
This year, Bart has the ultimate touch for Valentine’s Day with a “Romantic Trio,” three beautiful wines in a finely made limited edition wood gift box with velvet compartments. It contains “Attraction” Chardonnay, “Romantic” Merlot and ”Seduction” Cabernet blend, and sells for $199.
Check it out in time for Valentine’s Day by calling (707) 252-8463 or visit www.obrienestate.com.
Valentine’s Day Wine Bytes for Feb. 14
— At Bernardo Winery’s Vino Valentino Dinner at Café Merlot, you select five wines to taste and a gift glass, then have estate aged wines and dinner in the Barrel Room. The evening also includes jazz music and other surprise gifts. The cost is $75 each person, or $125 for two. RSVP at (858) 487-1866.
— Salerno Winery in Ramona has a dinner with the winemaker and opera music. Salmon with Salerno’s ’02 Elegante along with salad and the popular Salerno Petite Sirah; roasted white fish and seared tenderloin with the Estate Sensation. The cost is $80 per person. Contact Rose at (760) 788-7160 for more information.
— Valentine’s Day at the elegant Grand Del Mar includes an awesome six-course dinner from Executive Chef William Bradley, capped by milk-fed Rotie or Braised Beef Shortribs. The cost is $125 per person with other options. Get the full story by calling (858) 314-1900.
— Savory Casual Fare in Encinitas has created exceptional meals served from 4 to 9 p.m. at $56 each or $78 with champagnes and matching wines. Entrees include filet of beef or Opakapuka. Call to RSVP at (760) 634-5556.
— Up in Temecula wine country: Ponte Winery has a candle-lit four-course dinner in the Barrel Room, with one seating at 7 p.m. The cost is $95 per person. Call (951) 694-8855. Falkner Winery has a lovely four-course feast in the Pinnacle Restaurant with pairings of their best wines, including Champagne and Port. Call at (951) 676-8231, ext 1 for details. Thornton Winery has a Valentine’s Day Rendezvous with a four-star dinner for two, a decadent dessert and premium wines. Petite filet mignon and grilled shrimp top the menu. The cost is $80 each. Call (951) 699-0099 for details. Allie’s Bistro and Lounge in Temecula has a five-course dinner for $49 each, or dinner with paired wines for $74 per guest. Call (951) 695-8620 for details. Keyways Vineyard & Winery invites you to a sequel to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Phantom of the Opera” that starts at 7:30 p.m. A four-course dinner is included with premium wines. The cost is $94 per person. Call (951) 302-7888 for details.
We in the wine world are saddened by the death of one of the iconic winemakers in California, Leon Santoro of Orfila Winery in Escondido. Our next column will be devoted to this brilliant and humble man of the earth.

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